It’s the wedding of the year. But someone won’t survive it.
3 / 5 Stars
It’s no secret that I love to read, so when I found out that Book of the Month allows you to add up to two additional books along with your monthly pick, I was sold.
For my November BOTM pick, I chose Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane (review to come soon) and two additional books: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, and The Guest Listby Lucy Foley. The Guest List has been on my reading list ever since its debut, and I was so excited to finally get my hands on it.
When it comes to nightmare nuptials, The Guest List takes the cake. An exclusive wedding on a remote Irish island. Told from alternating points of view, the bride, the plus-one, the best man, the wedding planner, and the bridesmaid all have a secret; all have a motive. But only one is a murderer.
On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate the wedding of Julia Keegan and Will Slater. Will is a rising television star, handsome and charming. Jules is a smart, ambitious magazine publisher. Though the sea is a little choppy and the cell service spotty, their wedding is everything you’d expect of a young power couple: designer dress, four-tiered cake, boutique whiskey, vintage champagne. Every detail has been curated to perfection. All that’s left to orchestrate is the happiness.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. It’s not long after the cake is cut and the champagne popped that resentments and petty jealousies come out. Worse yet, the latest barometer reading shows the weather has shifted from ‘fair’ to ‘changeable,’ and dark clouds are looming overhead. Everyone on the island has a secret. Everyone has a motive. And someone won’t leave this wedding alive…
Disclaimer: It’s important to remember that everyone has different opinions; this review is no exception. I recommend that you take my reviews with a grain of salt and always give the book an honest chance – you may end up loving it!
For the most part, I liked The Guest List. The book itself is decently written and full of great descriptions of the isolated Irish island, but I also found it to be full of cliches – I could look past some of them, but not all. Although I flew through the book in one evening, it wasn’t quite the page-turner I had imagined it to be.
The following is a very critical, honest review of the book. While I did not care for the characters or the multiple points of view, I did like the concept of the book and found most of the plot to be enjoyable, if not a bit predictable.
Characters can make or break a story, and in this case, I found the characters rather hard to identify with. I didn’t much care for any of them, except one: Olivia, the bridesmaid.
Julia – The Bride
Julia Keegan, the bride, is extremely hard to like: the definition of a bridezilla, her better-than-you attitude and internal dialogue was all-around self-absorbed, cruel, and tiring. She’s the type of character you love to hate.
Often, writers associate strong female characters with power, ambition, a won’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude, and sometimes, a superiority complex. Jules is no different. The founder of a successful online magazine called The Download, Jules is a controlling perfectionist hated and feared by her staff, by her own step-sister Olivia, and by Hannah, the plus-one of Jules’ childhood friend, Charlie. The hatred alone that she harbors for her own step-sister is just downright horrid and completely uncalled for, particularly with one scene during the actual wedding.
When the book is in her point of view, Jules spends most of the time complaining about her family, worrying about whether or not she should get married, worrying about a mysterious note, and constantly exerts an attitude of superiority and haughtiness to the staff of the island and to her own guests. She is one cliche after another, and I found no sympathy for her. Are we supposed to like her? I’m not sure if this was the intent of the author, or if the reader is supposed to hate her.
Will – The Groom
Will Slater, the groom, is a cliched, modern Prince Charming. Tall, dark and handsome, he comes with everything except the white horse. Every woman wants him, and every man wants to be him. Will is a television star who grew up attending a posh private school led by his father, the headmaster. For Will, life has always been easy.
He isn’t likable or charming to the reader, though. The moment I read his character description, I have to admit that I winced: how many times has a character like Will been written, with the same personality? He’s successful and suave on the outside, but internally he’s the same mean boy from his private school days.
All anyone can talk about is how much he and Jules touch each other as though they can’t get enough; how amazing they look together, how in love. It’s a tireless trope and I was left rather disappointed at his lack of depth.
Hannah – The Plus-One
Hannah, the plus-one and wife of Charlie, is equally unlikeable, although not nearly as much as Jules. In the beginning of the book, I liked Hannah: we learn she is a mother of two, that she knows Jules through her husband (though she does not like her), and that she has a dark family past concerning her sister Alice, which is not revealed until the end of the book. As the story progresses, however, Hannah dissolves into a whiny, insecure woman with a rather immature mindset.
This wedding was her and Charlie’s chance at a weekend getaway from the kids, but Charlie hasn’t seen Jules in so long, and he wants to spend time with her. How dare he! Hannah is upset that Charlie wants to celebrate his friend’s wedding and catch up, and is left feeling dejected and miserable the whole trip… and reminds the reader of this every chapter. We get a sense through Hannah that she doesn’t trust her husband, that it’s been a while since they’ve been intimate, and that she’s jealous of his relationship with Jules, whom she hates.
However, Hannah’s redeeming quality is her want to help. After she arrives on the island, Hannah is bitter about Charlie reconnecting with Jules and instead, focuses on building a relationship with the outcast Olivia, who reminds her so much of Alice. Hannah has a genuine connection with Olivia and an honest desire to help, and I liked her more for it. While her monologues can be tiresome, Hannah is by far one of the more enjoyable characters.
Johnno – The Best Man
Johnno is self-entitled, and the epitome of a man who never quite matured emotionally. The duration of the book, Johnno is constantly self-deprecating, hating his own best friend Will in secret because Will is successful, and Johnno is still a failure. He’s been harboring dark secrets and feelings of resentment since his school days, which he spent in the halls of the posh boarding school run by Will’s father, and attended by Will and the other groomsmen at the wedding – none of whom seem to have grown out of the boyish, pack-like mindset.
Anytime Johnno meets a successful or well-off character in the book, his internal monologue becomes very bitter and jealous, which we hear especially when he describes Jules. He spends each chapter with a woe-is-me attitude, and the self-pity got old fast. Still, part of me felt bad for Johnno.
Olivia – The Bridesmaid
Olivia is the only character I truly connected with and cared about. She was the only character with depth; the only one I felt worried about, and protective of. The poor nineteen year old girl was desperate, and her portions of the book were cries for help. But the other characters were so concerned with themselves and their own petty problems that there was no one to notice.
The description of Olivia is heartbreaking: she’s hauntingly beautiful and entirely too thin. She has dropped out of college at Exeter, and we don’t yet know the entire reason, which comes in pieces as she talks to Hannah.
However, when the other characters are speaking, all we ever hear from them is that Olivia is Jules’ “cuckoo” sister. Mind you, she isn’t anything of the sort; she’s obviously reeling from something traumatic, so traumatic that she’s self-harming. It’s a very heavy theme, and it is not dealt with responsibly, thoughtfully, or with awareness. Instead, it is repeatedly mentioned and just “acceptable” considering what she went through, which I was really disappointed with.
Aoife – The Wedding Planner
There isn’t much to say for her. Aoife (pronounced EE-fa), is the no-fuss, composed wedding planner, ever in control of the situation. She’s cool as a cucumber, extremely organized, and completely unnecessary. While it was nice to get a background of the island through her eyes, I found her connection to the overall story to be rather pointless.
Personally, I don’t care much for books that switch between different points of view and timelines. The Guest List bounces constantly between five people: the bride, the wedding planner, the plus-one, the bridesmaid, and the best man, and between the day before the wedding and the fateful night. Many times I had to flip back to the chapter head to remind myself who’s POV it was. At the same time, it was fascinating to get that inside view from so many different characters. Because of this, the pacing of the novel is all over the map, depending on who is telling the story.
The classic whodunit mystery on a spooky, isolated island: though this book was a quick read, the plot builds slowly and conjures up a lot of imagery and assumptions. It takes place over two days: the day before the wedding, and the day of, switching often between the events leading up to the nuptials and that fateful wedding night.
I found much of the plot to be predictable, even while bouncing around between so many points of view and the timelines, and I don’t feel like anything was truly resolved. I was rather put off with the abrupt way the book seemed to end (of which I liked up until the last few chapters), and while the build up of the plot could have gone without many of the excessive details, the ending could have used several more pages of resolution. At times, there was so much going on that it was hard to keep up, and several times things were mentioned once and never brought up again.
Unfortunately for me -and perhaps its because of my love for mystery books- but I figured out pretty quickly A) who was going to die and B) who the killer was, which was disappointing. Nevertheless, I kept reading, hoping the actual reveal would be more impressive..
All in all, the book itself was a decent read, and I would still recommend giving it a try. Would I read it again? Probably not, but I don’t regret it, either. I’m definitely open to reading Foley’s future works, as writers only get stronger with each publication.
And again, I recommend that you take my reviews with a grain of salt and always give the book an honest chance – you may end up loving it!